Last year in Alaska a man was accused of killing two people in a crash because he was allegedly driving while watching a movie on an inboard dash DVD player. The man was acquitted.
Now an Alaskan legislator and friend of the deceased is filing a state bill to make it illegal to drive while watching a television or video monitor, according to an Associated Press report. The bill would also ban the installation of a video device that can be seen by the driver while the vehicle is moving.
Rep. Max Gruenberg Jr., D-Anchorage, says the bill states that watching while driving would be a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine between $2,500 and $10,000 under the measure. That would turn into a felony if a person is injured or dies as a result of a crash.
The popularity of dashboard and rear-seat DVD players is exploding. Last year, 3.4 million vehicle DVD players were shipped globally and 28 major automobile brands now offer DVD entertainment system options, according to the Telematics Research Group.
By 2010, that number will jump to 9.2 million, or roughly one out of every six cars sold in a year, Phil Magney, president of the Minnetonka, Minn.-based company, said in the AP story.
DVD players installed in the center console of a car's dashboard, when properly installed, can only be operated while a vehicle is in park. If the car is in motion, it shouldn't be able to play. But installers can and do bypass those safety features to enable the player to run whether the car is parked or not.
Alaska is one of three states considering legislation restricting the use of DVD players. Hawaii lawmakers are considering a proposal to prohibit any video monitor forward of the drivers seat. Mississippi also would prohibit the installation of television screens in view of the driver.
Last year, California enacted a bill to restrict the use of DVD players in cars. Tennessee outlawed playing porn videos in cars, but that state's new law did not go any further in restricting videos that can be seen by drivers, according to the AP story.